Having a supply of homemade stock on hand is truly a comfort. It’s best to make a large batch when convenient and, after chilling and removing the fat, divide it among heavy freezer containers of different sizes and freeze. This way, you can easily make nourishing soups, enrich sauces and enhance rice and stews without resorting to canned or powdered versions, which are usually high in sodium and offer little if any resemblance to the real thing. And even if you accidentally thaw more stock than you need for a recipe, you can refreeze it—providing you remember that you must bring the refrozen, defrosted-again stock to a full and rolling boil before using it in a recipe.
Always begin your stock with cold fresh water. The amount necessary will largely depend on the amount of solids used. Since solids take up a lot of room, in order to maximize the amount of stock after straining, use an extra-large pot to accommodate more water. For best results, use a tall narrow stockpot, as opposed to a wide one, since the latter will encourage excessive evaporation. After straining and removing the congealed fat, if the stock looks lighter or thinner than desired, return stock to a boil and simmer uncovered until reduced and concentrated to suit your cooking purposes.
When shopping for ingredients, remember that stock is the base for all of your soups, sauces and rice dishes. The more aromatic and rich the stock, the less outside help your dishes will need from salt and other flavor or color enhancers. So, don’t skimp on the quality of your ingredients. Although I’ve provided an ingredients list with specific amounts in my Chicken Stock recipe, it’s not necessary to have exact dimensions when making any stock. It’s best to think of making stock as a concept and not a recipe. The specified amounts listed in my recipe, or any other, are by no means etched in stone and should be used only as a guide. If your pot is smaller than suggested, simply use less solids. You can add cleaned leeks, parsnips, turnips, more carrots, less celery and the list goes on. When making any stock, avoid the use of “cruciferous” vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as they add a strong and overwhelming taste, as well as an offensive odor. Also, don’t include the liver in chicken stock as it imparts a bitter flavor and clouds the color. As for seasoning, if making stock to freeze for various uses, it’s best to add only a minimum of seasoning (such as herbs, spices, salt and pepper) when making the stock and season further according to your given recipe after thawing. This will allow your stock to stay as versatile as possible.
Lastly, for the most delicious and health-conscious chicken or beef stock, always allow time for the thick layer of fat to rise, so you can discard it before using it in your recipes. Since many recipes call for the addition of another fat such as butter or oil, the large inherent amount of pure chicken or beef fat is both unhealthy and unappetizing. Remember that if this excess fat doesn’t end up in the garbage, it could end up in your arteries!